Swedish Rock and Roll

Prompt: Infuse


Gordon Ping was angry.

He shaved with a hand razor, examining with disgust the crusty lines deepening around his mouth and eyes. He dressed carefully for work, re-ironing the pair of grey polyester trousers that he’d worn the day before. He wore a white polo shirt fresh out of the dryer, which smelled of lilacs. He disliked the smell of lilacs. His ex-wife left the box of dryer sheets and he was frugally using them up, and now the odor made him angry, too.

She said she didn’t like the way he looked anymore. She said his face and body told stories about his insides the way a house exterior says much about its occupants. Fuck her. He wasn’t a thatched cottage (far from it, as his hair was thinning too)— he was a man with man challenges and man problems. Maybe he didn’t spill his guts to this woman at every turn: that was down to her. She questioned his version of events, his opinions, his decisions to such an extent that it was no longer valuable to share with her. If he wanted nit-picking judgements he’d go talk to his boss.

Thomas Agent, rich asshole and micro-manager. All Gordon did was put on a cheap royal blue smock and push a cart of external mail and inter-office packages around the four floors of the company, but Agent personally conducted his three-month review and later, his annual review.

“Tell me, Gordon” — who said he could use his first name? Presumptuous asshole. “Tell me, what do you find the most challenging about your job?”

Nothing is fucking challenging about being a fucking mail boy at age 48 except the fucking people, like you. “I find many of the employees distracting. They start chatting and slow me down. It’s hard to complete my daily tasks.” Daily tasks. A helpful term he’d learned at his first review.

“And what do you see as a resolution to this problem?” Thomas Agent was a man who thought he was subtle but was as transparent as cling film. Still, he had no eyebrows, which threw Gordon off balance at times. They’d been permanently singed and traumatized into non-existence after his briefcase exploded. The authorities believed his tale of ignorance as to where the bomb came from, which seemed lazy and complacent. Anyway, he was actually lucky to be alive.

He was lucky, period. Gordon Ping had more education than this son of a bitch, but far less luck. Health problems: diabetes, lung cancer, and a host of allergies kept him off the upward ladder, and he found himself having to start over again and again. He was introverted and some mistook this for pride or disdain, which slowed his progress. Who wants to promote or work for an unlikeable man? Well, guess what? His introversion did develop into pride and disdain— why not? He was better, smarter than most of the delusional, self-seeking morons he lived and worked among. He learned to hide his disdain until it was simply no longer possible. Thus his wife telling him his face now betrayed him, and broadcast his bitter contempt instead of hiding it.

She was a hypocrite in her own right. Pretending to be feminist but refusing to help support him after the divorce. If he’d been the main breadwinner you can bet he would have had to pay alimony. But no, she could afford the lawyers and he was recovering from a collapsed lung— no contest.

So he found himself sitting faux-humbly before Thomas Agent as he sipped tea infused with ginseng, believing it to have life-enhancing properties, discussing the challenges of dropping packages clearly addressed with the recipient’s name and location to the correct cubicle.

“Well, Mr Agent,” said Gordon.

“Call me Tom, for heaven’s sake, Gordon.”

Gordon closed his eyes for two seconds. “What I see as a resolution to the challenges of my job, is: headphones.”


“Ms Cohen thinks I need to be alert and that headphones could cause mishap,” said Gordon. “I’ve asked several times.”

“Good,” said Thomas Agent. “I see where headphones could help you do your job more efficiently; thank you for the input. This could resolve the issue of complaints of slow mail delivery etc, that we’ve received about your work, Gordon.”

And so it was that Gordon Ping, 48, divorced, angry, disillusioned, got a pair of inexpensive Philips On-Ear Sound Isolating headphones, which while not high quality, did a superb job of allowing Gordon to ignore conversation, so he was able to push his little trolley among four identical floors and deliver his mail without having to communicate with humans, and instead listened to Swedish rock and roll.

It is hard to be angry when listening to Swedish rock and roll.


Where Rage Lives

Prompt: Subdued
Warning: Offensive Language


Jeremy’s father started to have tantrums as if he was a toddler, except he was a grown man, advanced in age but still strong, and so was a danger to himself and others when he flew into these blind rages.

It was probably a kind of dementia, his doctor told Jeremy. Jeremy disagreed. He was just a selfish, violent asshole, and the older he got, the worse he got. “Right,” said the doctor. “He loses the filter. He can’t help it.”

So Jeremy tried hard not to hate his father. He tried hard to understand him. He generally failed to do both. It was much better since Xavier moved in; Xavier had a serenity about him, or perhaps it was just an indifference to the insults and rantings of an old man. But with Xavier around to look after him, Jeremy all but abandoned his plans to get his father into a nursing home and out of his life. Working two jobs was not the brilliant savings plan Jeremy had envisioned. There was no way to fast-track his father out of the apartment and into an institution far away from him.

Jeremy resigned himself to the unforgivable plan of cohabiting with this father. He felt terrible about it, and realized it was not a good solution for either of them. Unless, Jeremy realized, he could arrange schedules with Xavier and the airline so that he rarely had to see his father face to face.

He worked the late afternoon shifts and the overnight shifts as often as he could. For a week at a time he would not see his father at all, arriving home when his father was in bed and leaving again before they had time to confront one another.

The tantrum came one afternoon towards the end of that quiet (for Jeremy) week. He was awakened from a dead sleep, having returned home pumped up from a bomb scare at the airport. He’d played video games in his room until he literally fell into bed unconscious.

“Don’t you— don’t you talk to me like that, you spic!” His father. Jeremy put the pillow over his head.

Then some furniture scraping, and finally, something picked up and hurled against the wall. It sounded like the building was imploding. Jeremy dragged himself up and into the kitchen, where he was startled to see blood streaming from his father’s nose.

Xavier stood near the back door, a frying pan in his hand. A loaf of bread had been emptied and scattered around the room. Blood covered the front of his father’s shirt.

“See what he does? You leave me alone with this… thing, day after day!” His father wiped blood from his nose with a shirt sleeve, and then kicked over a kitchen chair. “Faggots, both of you, abusing an old man, both of you!”

“Xavier?” Jeremy said quietly.

Xavier shook his head. “I did nothing. He requested his lunch, I prepared it. He did not like it. He threw it.”

“Fucking teenage faggot!”

“I said, ‘Why do that Mr Connor? This is what you say you want.’ I don’t know, he forgot? He—“

“Call the police!” said his father. “Get this wetback deported.”

“You didn’t hit him,” Jeremy asked.

“I did not,” said Xavier. “The plate he threw hit me, though, so…” He held up the frying pan, indicating its purpose was to shield himself from flying objects.

“Are you seriously going to believe that filthy foreign thug over me?”

“Dad, go lie down for a little bit. Really. I’ll bring you some tea.”

“Shut the fuck up,” said his father. He suddenly looked at his sleeve, and the knocked over chair, and Xavier by the door with a frying pan. “Just leave me alone.” The blood seemed to have stopped flowing and Jeremy handed his father a fistful of paper towels.

Subdued, Jeremy’s father shuffled out of the kitchen.

“How often has this been happening?” Jeremy said.

“Just a few times,” said Xavier, placing the pan carefully on top of the stove. “He just goes off like a firework. Boom. Pop. Pow.”

“His nose?”

“I think is a nose bleed,” said Xavier. He started picking up pieces of bread from the floor. “Your father is angry.”

“He is always angry,” said Jeremy.


That is a good question, Jeremy thought. It wasn’t all dementia, or lack of filters, or a vile temperament. He knew this for a fact, because he himself was full of anger towards his father. Rage, suppressed. He understood how anger felt, but was ignorant about where it lived and how it flourished.

He helped Xavier clean up the kitchen. He ate a grilled cheese sandwich that Xavier prepared. He took a cup of strong tea into his father’s room. His dad lay under the covers, in his clothes, blood clotting around his nostrils, sound asleep. Jeremy put the cup on the bedside table. His father, he knew, would awake and be enraged by cold tea.